Rosemary Conley’s 50th Anniversary

Rosemary Conley’s 50th anniversary of opening her very first class occured in January 2022.
This is her story of how it happened:

Being Overweight!

I hated being overweight (which I was in the late ‘60s) and I tried everything in my efforts to be slim. I remember buying the chewy cubes called Ayds that were supposed to suppress my appetite. They didn’t. Another gimmick was to wear huge plastic bloomers in bed. They were supposed to enable you to sweat off the fat from your thighs while sleeping! Thankfully, I didn’t succumb to trying those! Extraordinarily, nobody talked about eating healthily or doing more exercise to lose weight. When I went to the doctor for help he just handed me a 1000-calorie diet sheet. I found that impossible to follow because it was too strict. I found I’d eaten all my calories by 4pm and then I just carried on eating all evening!

In desperation, I decided to study weight loss in more detail and became really interested in the subject. We got a dog which meant I walked more. I then designed my own diet plan based on 1400 calories a day which I found was do-able. It worked!

By 1971 my weight had reduced to a healthy level and I had become fascinated by the whole subject of healthy eating and weight control. I had been on a Good Grooming course when I was 18 which had significantly boosted my confidence. Using the knowledge I had gained I decided to share what I had learned with others.

Launching my first class

I remember pinning up 30 bright yellow posters inviting folks to join my first Slimming and Good Grooming Class. It was to be held every Monday evening in our local village hall. Much to my surprise, 29 eager women joined on that first night. The following week, my first ever Slimmer of the Week had lost 11 lbs! It was so exciting and it was fun and I thought: ‘I’m loving doing this!’ The year was 1972 and little did I know then that I’d still be teaching 50 years on!

From that one class with my neighbours I opened others in the area and ended up with a chain of classes across the city and county. Ten years later I sold the chain to a national magazine company. I continued to run the business for them as Managing Director until 1985 when the company decided to close the business down. That was the end of the chain but they couldn’t close my own personal class!

The Hip & Thigh Diet

The following year I suffered a gall bladder problem and to control the symptoms I was advised to eat a low-fat diet. Doing that gave me the weight loss that inspired me to write The Hip & Thigh Diet which was published in 1988.

In 1993 to back up the books and TV series that followed, Mike and I launched the national chain of franchised Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness Clubs. At its peak we had 160 professionally qualified exercise teachers running 2,000 classes a week for over 70,000 members. The chain closed in 2014 with many of the franchisees continuing to run their own classes independently. Just as I was still doing with my little group in Leicester!

Rosemary leading a class at a regional roadshow in 2007

I still get asked several times a week if we are going to restart the national classes. It was great fun but a lot of hard work and at 76 that’s not something I’m planning on doing! I still love teaching my two personal classes each Monday evening at my local golf club. Many of my members having been with me pretty much since the beginning. We are all growing older together and doing what we can to LIVE LONGER, LIVE HEALTHIER, LIVE HAPPIER!

Rosemary’s Class November 2018

Rosemary Conley’s 50th anniversary was marked by various interviews. A question she was often asked was ‘How have things changed since those early days?’ Her response was simple – “Back then, we didn’t even think about exercise, it was all about dieting. Thank goodness we know what we know about exercise now!”

You may like to listen to Rosemary’s interview with Anita Rani on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour from Friday 14th January 2022. You can find it on the BBC Sounds website. Rosemary was on for about 10 minutes. You can skip straight to the interview if you fast-forward 30 minutes from the start of the programme.